In what has been a tricky avalanche season across the west, the worst possible news came Sunday when an avalanche broke loose, killing three skiers in a backcountry area in Washington state. A fourth was killed in a separate, unrelated incident.
According to an Associated Press report, there were about a dozen people skiing in deep powder on the back side of Stevens Pass when the avalanche struck. All 12 were caught up in it, but most were able to dig themselves out.
The three who were killed were swept about 1,500 feet down a chute in Tunnel Creek Canyon, the AP reported.
The skiers were all described as experienced and well-equipped, the report said. CNN reported that all the skiers were wearing avalanche beacons.
CNN identified those killed in that slide as Jim Jack, Chris Rudolph and John Brenan. Jack was a ski tour judge for the Freeskiing World Tour, an event for high-level extreme skiers in the U.S., Canada and South America, CNN reported.
A fourth skier who was caught in the slide was saved by an avalanche safety device she was wearing, the report said, though it didn’t make clear what device that was. CNN reported that it was an airbag-type system that helped the skier stay above the surface of the avalanche.
Those who survived tried CPR on the three victims, but to no avail.
The report said authorities had issued a high avalanche danger in areas over 5,000 feet because of warmer weather and heavy weekend snowfall — up to two feet in some places.
The report cited the Colorado Avalanche Information Center as saying there had been 13 avalanche deaths this season across the West as of Thursday.
Other media reports say that a snowboarder was killed an another avalanche in a different area. No identification was made in that incident.